RECENT IMMIGRATION: A FIELD NEGLECTED BY THE SCHOLAR*
*Delivered on the occasion of the Fifty-third Convocation of the University, held in the Leon Mandel Assembly Hall, December 20, 1904.
BY JANE ADDAMS
Head of Hull-House, Chicago
It is, perhaps, well to rid myself at once of some of the implications of this rather overwhelming title by stating that it is not the purpose of this short address to enter into a discussion concerning the restriction or nonrestriction of immigration, nor to attempt to analyze those astounding figures annually published from Ellis Island; neither do I wish to charge the scholar with having neglected to collect information as to the extent and growth of immigration in the United States, nor in failing to furnish statistical material as fully perhaps as the shifting character of the subject permits. Such formal studies as we have on the annual colonies of immigrants in American cities, and of the effect of immigration in districts similar to the anthracite coal regions, have been furnished by university men; indeed, almost the only accurate study into the nationalities and locations of the immigrants in Chicago has been made by a member of this University.
But in confining the subject to a scrutiny of the oft-repeated statement that we as a nation are rapidly reaching the limit of our powers of assimilation, that we receive further masses of immigrants at the risk of blurring those traits and characteristics which we are pleased to call American, with its corollary that the national standard of living is in danger of permanent debasement, a certain further demand may legitimately be made upon the scholar. I hope to be able to sustain the contention that such danger as exists arises from intellectual dearth and apathy; that we are testing our national life by a tradition too provincial and limited to meet its present motley and cosmopolitan character; that we lack mental energy, adequate knowledge, and a sense of the youth of the earth. The constant cry that American institutions are in danger betrays a spiritual waste, not due to our infidelity to national ideals, but arising from the fact that we fail to enlarge those in accord with our faithful experience of life; and that our political machinery, devised for quite other conditions, has not been readjusted and adapted to the successive changes resulting from our industrial development. The clamor for the town meeting, for the colonial and early-century ideals of government is in itself significant, for we know out of our personal experience that we quote the convictions and achievements of the past as an excuse for our inaction in moments when the current of life runs low; that one of the dangers of life, one of its vertible moral pits, consists in the temptation to remain constant to a truth when we no longer wholly believe it, when its implications are not justified by our latest information. If the immigration situation contains the elements of an intellectual crisis, then to let the scholar off with the mere collecting of knowledge, or yet with its transmission, or indeed to call his account closed with that still higher function of research, would be to throw away one of our most valuable assets.
In a sense the enormous and unprecedented moving about over the face of the earth on the part of all nations, is in itself the result of philosophic dogma, of the creed of individual liberty. The modern system of industry and [page 2] commerce presupposes freedom of occupation, of travel, and residence; even more, it unhappily rests in a large measure upon the assumption of a body of the unemployed and the unskilled, ready to be absorbed or dropped according to the demands of production: but back of that, or certainly preceding its later developments, lies "the natural rights" doctrine of the eighteenth century. Even so late as 1892 an official treaty of the United States referred to the "inalienable rights of man to change his residence and religion." This dogma of the schoolmen, dramatized in France and penetrating under a thousand forms into the most backward European states, is still operating as an obscure force in sending emigrants to America, and in our receiving them here. But in the second century of its existence it has become too barren and chilly to induce any really zealous or beneficent activity on behalf of the immigrants after they arrive, and those things which we do believe -- such convictions as we have, and which might be formulated to the immeasurable benefit of the immigrants, and to the everlasting good of our national life -- have not yet been apprehended by the scholar in relation to this field. They have furnished us with no method by which to discover men, to spiritualize, to understand, to hold intercourse with aliens and to receive of what they bring. A century-old abstraction breaks down before this vigorous test of concrete cases, the Italian lazzaroni, the peasants from the Carpathian foothills, and the proscribed traders from Galatia. We have no national ideality founded upon realism and tested by our growing experience, but only the platitudes of our crudest youth with which to meet the situation. The philosophers and statesmen of the eighteenth century believed that the universal franchise would cure all ills; that fraternity and equality rested only upon constitutional rights and privileges. The first political document of America opens with this philosophy and upon it the founders of a new state ventured their fortunes. We still keep to this formalization because the philosophers of this generation give us nothing newer, ignoring the fact that world-wide problems are no longer abstractly political, but politico-industrial. If we could frankly face the proposition that the whole situation is more industrial than political, then we should realize that the officers of the government who are dealing with naturalization papers and testing the knowledge of the immigrants concerning the constitution of the United States, are only playing with counters representing the beliefs of a century ago, while the real issues are being settled by the great industrial and commercial interests which are at once the product and the masters of our contemporary life. As children who are allowed to amuse themselves with poker chips pay no attention to the real game which their elders play with the genuine cards in their hands, so we shut our eyes to the exploitation and industrial debasement of the immigrant, and say with placid contentment that he has been given the rights of an American citizen, and that, therefore, all our obligations have been fulfilled. It is as if we should undertake to cure our current political corruption which is founded upon a disregard of the interstate commerce acts by requiring the recreant citizens to repeat the constitution of the United States.
As yet no vigorous effort is made to discover how far our present system of naturalization, largely resting upon laws enacted in 1802, is inadequate, although it may have met the requirements of "the fathers." These processes were devised to test new citizens who had immigrated to the United States from political rather than from economic pressure, although these two have always been in a certain sense coextensive. Yet the early Irish came to America to seek an opportunity for self-government denied them at home, the Germans and Italians started to come in largest numbers after [page 3] the absorption of their smaller states into the larger nations, and the immigrants from Russia are the conquered Poles, Lithuanians, Finns, and Jews. On some such obscure notion the processes of naturalization were worked out, and with a certain degree of logic these first immigrants were presented with the constitution of the United States as a type and epitome of that which they had come to seek. So far as they now come in search of political liberty, as many of them do every day, the test is still valid; but in the meantime we cannot ignore those significant figures which show emigration to rise with periods of depression in given countries, and immigration to be checked by periods of depression in America, and we refuse to see how largely the question has become an economic one. At the present moment, as we know, the actual importing of immigrants is left largely to the energy of steamship companies and to those agents for contract labor who are keen enough to avoid the restrictive laws. The business man here is again in the saddle as he is so largely in American affairs. From the time that they first make the acquaintance of the steamship agent in their own villages, at least until a grandchild is born on the new soil, the immigrants are subjected to various processes of exploitation from purely commercial and self-seeking interests. It begins with the representatives of the trans-Atlantic lines and their allies, who convert the peasant holdings into money, and provide the prospective emigrants with needless supplies. The brokers in manufactured passports send their clients by successive stages for a thousand miles to a port suiting their purposes. On the way the emigrants' eyes are treated that they may pass the physical test; they are taught to read sufficiently well to meet the literacy test; they are lent enough money to escape the pauper test; and by the time they have reached America, they are so hopelessly in debt that it takes them months to work out all they have received, during which time they are completely under the control of the last broker in the line, who has his dingy office in an American city. The exploitation continues under the employment agency whose operations verge into those of the politician, through the naturalization henchman, the petty lawyers who foment their quarrels and grievances by the statement that in a free country everybody "goes to law," by the liquor dealers who stimulate a lively trade among them, and finally by the lodging-house keepers and the landlords who are not obliged to give them the housing which the American tenant demands. It is a long dreary road and the immigrant is successfully exploited at each turn. At moments one looking on is driven to quote the Titanic plaint of Walt Whitman:
"As I stand aloof and look there is to me something profoundly affecting in large masses of men following the lead of those who do not believe in men."
The sinister aspect of this exploitation lies in the fact that it is carried on by agents whose stock in trade are the counters and terms of citizenship. It is said that at the present moment there are more of these agents in Palermo than perhaps in any other European port, and that those politicians who have found it impossible to stay even in that corrupt city are engaged in the brokerage of naturalization papers in the United States, that certainly one effect of the stringent contract-labor laws has been to make the padrones more powerful because "smuggled alien labor" has become more valuable to American corporations, and also to make simpler the delivery of immigrant votes according to the dictates of commercial interests. It becomes a veritable system of poisoning the notions of decent government because the entire process is carried on in political terms -- our childish red, white, and blue poker chips again! More elaborate avoidance of restrictive legislation quickly adapts itself to changes either in legislation here or at the points of departure; [page 4] for instance, a new type of broker in Russia at the present moment is making use of the war in the interest of young Russian Jews. If one of these men should leave the country ordinarily, his family would be obliged to pay three hundred rubles to the government, but if he first joins the army his family is free from this obligation, for he has passed into the keeping of his sergeant. Out of four hundred Russian Jews who three months ago were drafted into the army at a given recruiting station, only ten reported, the rest having escaped through emigration. Of course the entire undertaking is much more hazardous because the man is a deserter from the army in addition to his other disabilities; but the brokers merely put up the price of their services and continue their undertakings. Do we ignore the one million false naturalization papers in the United States issued and concealed by commercial politics, in the interests of our uneasy knowledge that commercial and governmental powers are curiously allied, although we profess that the latter has no connection with the former and no control over it? The man who really knows immigrants and undertakes to naturalize them makes no [pretense] of the lack of connection between the two. The petty and often corrupt politician who is first kind to them realizes perfectly well that the force pushing them here has been industrial need and that its recognition is legitimate. He follows the natural course of events when he promises to get the immigrant "a job," for that is certainly what he most needs in all the world. If the politician neatest to him were really interested in the immigrant and should work out a scheme of naturalization fitted to the situation, he would go on from the street-cleaning and sewer-digging in which the immigrant first engages, to an understanding of the relation of these simple offices to city government, to the obligation of his alderman to secure cleanliness for the streets in which his children play and for the tenement in which he lives. The notion of representative government could be made quite clear and concrete to him. He could demand his rights and use his vote in order to secure them. His very naive demands might easily become a restraint, a purifying check upon the alderman, instead of a source of constant corruption and exploitation. But when the politician attempts to naturalize the bewildered immigrant, he must perforce accept the doctrinaire standard imposed by men who held a theory totally unattached to experience, and he must therefore begin with the remote constitution of the United States. At the Cook County courthouse only a few weeks ago a candidate for naturalization, who was asked the usual question as to what the constitution of the United States was, replied: "The Illinois Central." His mind naturally turned to his work, to the one bit of contribution he had genuinely made to the new country, and his reply might well offer a valuable suggestion to the student of educational method. The School of education of this University makes industrial construction and evolution a natural basis for all future acquisition of knowledge and claims that any thing less vital and creative is inadequate.
It is surprising how a simple experience, if it be but genuine, affords an opening into citizenship altogether lacking to the more grandiose attempts. A Greek-American who slaughters sheep in a tenement-house yard on the basis of Homeric tradition, can be made to see the effect of the improvised shambles on his neighbors' health and the right of the city to prohibit him, only as he perceives the development of city government upon its most modern basis.
The enforcement of adequate child-labor laws offers unending opportunity for better citizenship, founded not upon theory but on action. An Italian or Bohemian parent who has worked in the fields from babyhood finds it difficult to understand [page 6] that the long and monotonous work in factories in which his child engages is much more exigent than the intermittent outdoor labor required from him; that the need for education for his child is a matter of vital importance to his city, which has enacted definite, well-considered legislation in regard to it. Some of the most enthusiastic supporters of child-labor legislation and compulsory-education laws are those parents who sacrifice old-world tradition, as well as the much-needed earnings of their young children because of loyalty to the laws of their adopted country. Certainly genuine sacrifice for the nation's law is a good foundation for patriotism, and as this again is not a doctrinaire question, women are not debarred, and mothers who wash and scrub for the meager support of their children say sturdily sometimes, "It will be a year before he can go to work without breaking the law, but we came to this country to give the young ones a chance and we are not going to begin by having them do what's not right."
Upon some such basis as this the Hebrew Alliance and the Charity Organization Society of New York which are putting forth desperate energy in the enormous task of ministering to the suffering which immigration entails, are developing understanding and respect for the alien through their mutual efforts to secure more adequate tenement-house regulation, and to control the spread of tuberculosis, both of these undertakings being perfectly hopeless without the intelligent co-operation of the immigrants themselves. Through such humble doors as these perchance the immigrant may enter into his heritage in a new nation. Democratic government has always been the result of spiritual travail and moral effort; apparently even here the immigrant must pay the cost.
As we fail to begin with his experience in the induction of the adult immigrant into practical citizenship, so we assume in our formal attempts to teach patriotism, that experience and tradition have no value, and that a new sentiment must be put into aliens by some external process. Some years ago a public-spirited organization engaged a number of speakers to go to the various city schools in order to instruct the children in the significance of Decoration Day and to foster patriotism among the foreign-born, by descriptions of the Civil War. In one of the schools filled with Italian children, an old soldier, a veteran in years and experience, gave a description of a battle in Tennessee, and his personal adventures in using a pile of brush as an ambuscade and a fortification. Coming from the schoolhouse an eager young Italian broke out with characteristic vividness into a description of his father's campaigning under the leadership of Garibaldi, possibly from some obscure notion that that too was a civil war fought from principle, but more likely because the description of one battle had roused in his mind the memory of another such description. The lecturer, whose sympathies happened to be on the other side of the Garibaldian conflict, somewhat sharply told him that he must forget all that, that he was no longer an Italian, but an American. The natural growth of patriotism upon respect for the achievements of one's fathers, the bringing together of the past with the present, the pointing out of the almost world-wide effort at a higher standard of political freedom which swept over all Europe and American between 1848 and 1872 could, of course, have no place in the boy's mind, because it had none in the mind of the instructor, whose patriotism apparently tried to purify itself by the American process of elimination.
How far a certain cosmopolitan humanitarianism ignoring national differences is either possible or desirable, it is difficult to state; but certain it is that the old type of patriotism founded upon a common national history and land occupation becomes to many of the immigrants who bring it with them, a veritable stumbling block and impedimenta. Many [page 6] Greeks whom I know are fairly besotted with a consciousness of their national importance, and the achievements of their glorious past. Among them the usual effort to found a new patriotism upon American history is often an absurd undertaking; for instance, on the night of last Thanksgiving, I spent some time and zeal in a description of the Pilgrim Fathers, the motives which had driven them across the sea, while the experiences of the Plymouth colony were illustrated by stereopticon slides and little dramatic scenes. The audience of Greeks listened respectfully, although I was uneasily conscious of the somewhat feeble attempt to boast of Anglo-Saxon achievement in hardihood and privation to men whose powers of admiration were absorbed in their Greek background of philosophy and beauty. At any rate, after the lecture was over, one of the Greeks said to me quite simply: "I wish I could describe my ancestors to you; they were different from yours." His further remarks were translated from a little Irish boy of eleven who speaks modern Greek with facility and turns many an honest penny by translating, into the somewhat pert statement: "He says if that is what your ancestors are like, that his could beat them out." It is a good illustration of our faculty for ignoring the past, and of our failure to understand the immigrant estimation of ourselves. This lack of a more cosmopolitan standard, of a consciousness of kind founded upon creative imagination and historic knowledge, is evident in many directions, and cruelly widens the gulf between immigrant fathers and children who are "Americans in process."
A hideous story comes from New York of a young Russian Jewess who was employed as a stenographer in a down-town office, where she became engaged to be married to a young man of Jewish-American parentage. She felt keenly the difference between him and her newly immigrated parents, and on the night when he was to be presented to them, she went home early to make every possible preparation for his coming. Her efforts to make the menage presentable were so discouraging, the whole situation filled her with such chagrin, that an hour before his expected arrival she ended her own life. Although the father was a Talmud scholar of standing in his native Russian town, and the lower was a clerk of very superficial attainment, she possessed no standard by which to judge the two men. This lack of standard can be charged to the entire community, for why should we expect an untrained girl to be able to do for herself what the community so pitifully fails to accomplish?
As scholarship in the first half of the nineteenth century saved literature from a futile romanticism and transformed its entire method by the perception that "the human is not of necessity the cultivated, the human is the widespread, the ancient in speech or in behavior, it is the deep, the emotional, the thing much loved by many men, the poetical, the organic, the vital, in civilization," so I would ask the scholarship of this dawning century to save its contemporaries from materialism by revealing to us the inherent charm and resource of the humblest men. Equipped as it is with the training and the "unspecialized cell" of evolutionary science this ought not to prove an impossible task. The scholar has already pointed out to us the sweetness and charm which inhere in primitive domestic customs and show us the curious pivot they make for religious and tribal beliefs, until the simple action of women grinding millet or corn becomes almost overladen with penetrating reminiscence, sweeter than the chant they sing. Something of the same quality may be found among many of the immigrants; when one stumbles upon an old Italian peasant with her distaff against her withered face and her pathetic old hands patiently holding the thread, as has been done by myriads of women since children needed to be clad; or an old German potter, misshapen by years, but his sensitive hands fairly alive with skill and delicacy, and his life [page 7] at least illumined with the artist's prerogative of direct creation, one wishes that the scholar might be induced to go man hunting into these curious human groups called newly arrived immigrants! Could we take these primitive habits as they are to be found in American cities every day, and give them their significance and place, they would be a wonderful factor for [poetry] in cities frankly given over to industrialism, and candidly refusing to read poetry which has no connection with its aims and activities. As a McAndrews' hymn may express the frantic rush of the industrial river, so these could give us something of the mysticism and charm of the industrial springs, a suggestion of source, a touch of the refinement which adheres to simple things. This study of origins, of survivals, of paths of least resistance refining an industrial age through the people and experiences which really belong to it and do not need to be brought in from the outside, surely affords an opening for scholarship.
The present lack of understanding, the dearth of the illumination which knowledge gives can be traced not only in the social and political maladjustment of the immigrant, but is felt in so-called "practical affairs" of national magnitude. Regret is many times expressed that notwithstanding the fact that nine out of every ten immigrants are of rural birth, that they all tend to congregate in cities where their inherited and elaborate knowledge of agricultural processes is unutilized, although they are fitted to undertake the painstaking method which American farmers despise. But it is characteristic of American complacency that when any assisted removal to agricultural regions is contemplated, that we utterly ignore their past experiences and always assume that each family will be content to live in the middle of its own piece of ground, although there are few peoples on the face of the earth who have ever tried isolating a family on 160 acres or on 80, or even on 40; but this is the American way, a survival of our pioneer days, and we refuse to modify it, notwithstanding the fact that the South Italians from the day of [medieval] incursions have lived in compact villages with an intense and elaborate social life, so much of it out of doors and interdependent that it has affected almost every domestic habit. Italian women knead their own bread, but depend on the village oven for its baking, and the men would rather walk for miles to their fields each day than to face an evening of companionship limited to the family. Nothing could afford a better check to the constant removal to the cities of the farming population all over the United States, than to be able to combine community life with agricultural occupation, affording that development of civilization which curiously enough density alone brings and for which even a free system of rural delivery is not an adequate substitute. Much of the significance and charm of rural life in South Italy lies in its village companionship, quite as the dreariness of the American farm life inheres in its unnecessary solitude. But we totally disregard the solution which the old agriculture community offers, and our utter lack of adaptability has something to do with the fact that the South Italian remains in the city where he soon forgets his cunning in regard to silk worms and olive trees, but continues his old social habits to the extent of filling an entire tenement-house with the people from one village.
We also exhibit all the Anglo-Saxon distrust of any experiment with land tenure or method of taxation, although the single-tax advocates in our midst do not fail to tell us daily of the stupidity of the present arrangement, and it might be well to make a few experiments upon a historic basis before their enthusiasm converts us all. The Slavic village, the mir system of land occupation, has been in successful operation for centuries in Russia, training men within its narrow limits to community administration; and yet when a persecuted sect from Russia wishes [page 8] to find refuge in America -- and naturally 7,000 people cannot give up all at once, even if it were desirable, a system of land ownership in which they are expert and which is singularly like that in vogue in Palestine during its period of highest prosperity -- we cannot receive them in the United States because our laws have no way of dealing with such a case. And in Canada, where they are finally settled, the unimaginative dominion officials are driven to the verge of distraction concerning registration of deeds and the collection of taxes from men who do not claim acres in their own names, but in the name of the village. The official distraction is reflected and intensified among the people themselves to the point of driving them into the [medieval] "marching mania," in the hope of finding a land in the south where they may carry out their inoffensive mir system. The entire situation might prove that an unbending theory of individualism may become as fixed as status itself. There are certainly other factors in the Doukhobor situation of religious bigotry and of the self-seeking of leadership, but in spite of the fact that the Canadian officials have in other matters exhibited much of the adaptability which distinguishes the British colonial policy, they are completely stranded on the rock of Anglo-Saxon individualistic ownership, and assume that any other system of land tenure is subversive of government, although Russia manages to exert a fair amount of governmental control over thousands of acres held under the system which they detest.
In our eagerness to reproach the immigrant for not going upon the land, we almost overlook the contributions to city life which those of them who were adapted to it in Europe are making to our cities here. From dingy little eating-houses in lower New York, performing a function somewhat between the eighteenth-century coffeehouse and the Parisian café, is issuing at the present moment perhaps the sturdiest realistic drama that is being produced on American soil. Late into the night speculation is carried forward, not on the nice questions of the Talmud and quibbles of logic, but minds long trained on these seriously discuss the need of a readjustment of the industrial machine that the primitive sense of justice and righteousness may secure larger play in our social organization. And yet a Russian in Chicago who used to believe that Americans cared first and foremost for political liberty, and would certainly admire those who had suffered in its cause, finds no one interested in his story of six years' banishment beyond the Antarctic circle, and is really listened to only when he tells to a sportsman the tale of the fish he caught during the six weeks of summer when the rivers were open. "Lively work then, but plenty of time to eat them dried and frozen through the rest of the year," is the most sympathetic comment he has yet received upon an experience which at least to him held the bittersweet of martyrdom.
Among the colonies of the most recently immigrated Jews who still carry out their orthodox customs and a ritual preserved through centuries in the Ghetto, one constantly feels, during a season of religious observance, a refreshing insistence upon the reality of the inner life, and the dignity of its expression in inherited form. Perhaps the most striking reproach to the materialism of Chicago is the sight of a Chicago River bridge lined with men and women on one day in the year, oblivious of the noisy traffic and sordid surroundings, casting their sins upon the waters that they may be carried far from them. That obsession which Chicago sometimes makes upon one's mind, so that one is almost driven to go out upon the street fairly shouting that, after all, life does not consist in wealth, in learning, in enterprise, in energy, in success, not even in that modern [fetish], culture, but in an inner equilibrium, "the agreement of soul," is here for once plainly stated, and is a relief even in its exaggeration and grotesqueness.
The charge that recent immigration threatens [page 9] to debase the American standard of living is certainly a grave one, but I would invite the scholar even into that sterner region which we are accustomed to regard as purely industrial. At first glance nothing seems farther from an intellectual proposition than this question of tin cups and plates stored in a bunk, versus a white cloth and a cottage table; and yet, curiously enough, an English writer has recently cited "standards of life" as an illustration of the fact that it is ideas which mold the lives of men, and states that around the deeply significant idea of the standard of life center our industrial problems of today, and that this idea forms the base of all the forward movements of the working class. The significance of the standard of life lies, not so much in the fact that for each of us it is different, but that for all of us it is progressive, constantly invading new realms. To imagine that all goes well if sewing-machines and cottage organs reach the first generation of immigrants, fashionable dressmakers and pianos the second, is of course the most untutored interpretation of it. And yet it is a question of food and shelter, and further of the maintenance of industrial efficiency and of life itself to thousands of men; and this gigantic task of standardizing successive nations of immigrants falls upon workmen who lose all if they fail.
Curiously enough, however, as soon as the immigrant situation is frankly regarded as an industrial one, the really political nature of the essentially industrial situation is revealed in the fact that trade organizations which openly concern themselves with the immigration problem on its industrial side quickly take on the paraphernalia and machinery which have hitherto associated themselves with governmental life and control. The trades unions have worked out all over again local autonomy with central councils and national representative bodies and the use of the referendum vote. They also exhibit many features of political corruption and manipulation, but they still contain the purifying power of reality, for the trades unions are engaged in a desperate struggle to maintain a standard wage against the constant arrival of unskilled immigrants at the rate of three-quarters of a million a year, at the very period when the elaboration of machinery permits the largest use of unskilled men. The first real lesson in self-government to many immigrants has come through the organization of labor unions, and it could come in no other way, for the union alone has appealed to their necessities. And out of these primal necessities. And out of these primal necessities one sees the first indication of an idealism of which one at moments dares to hope that it may be sturdy enough and sufficiently founded upon experience to make some impression upon the tremendous immigration situation.
To illustrate from the Stock Yards strike of last summer, may I quote from a study made from the University of Wisconsin:
Perhaps the fact of greatest social significance is that the strike of 1904 was not merely a strike of skilled labor for the unskilled, but was a strike of Americanized Irish, Germans, and Bohemians, in behalf of Slovaks, Poles, and Lithuanians..... This substitution of races in the Stock Yards has been a continuing process for twenty years. The older nationalities have already disappeared from the unskilled occupations, and the substitution has evidently run along the line of lower standard of living. The latest arrivals, the Lithuanians and Slovaks, are probably the most oppressed of the peasants of Europe.
Those who attended the crowded meetings of last summer and heard the same address successively translated by interpreters into six or eight languages, who saw the respect shown to the most uncouth of the speakers by the skilled American men who represented a distinctly superior standard of life and thought, could never doubt the power of the labor organization for amalgamation, whatever opinion they might hold concerning their other values. This may be said in spite of the fact that great industrial disturbances have arisen from the undercutting of wages by the lowering of racial standard. Certainly the most notable of these have taken place in those industries and at those places in which [page 10] the importation of immigrants has been deliberately fostered as a wage-lowering weapon, and even in those disturbances, and under the shock and strain of a long strike, disintegration did not come along the line of race cleavage.
It may further be contended that this remarkable coming together has been the result of economic pressure, and is without merit or idealism; that the trades-union record on Chinese exclusion and negro discrimination has been damaging; and yet I would quote from a study of the anthracite coal fields made from the University of Pennsylvania:
The United Mine Workers of America is taking men of a score of nationalities -- English-speaking and Slav-men of widely different creeds, languages, and customs, and of varying powers of industrial competition, and is welding them into an industrial brotherhood, each part of which can at least understand of the others that they are working for one great and common end. This bond of unionism is stronger than one can readily imagine who has not seen its mysterious workings or who has not been a victim of its members' newly found enthusiasm. It is today the strongest tie that can bind together 147,000 mine workers and the thousands dependent upon them. It is more than religion, more than the social ties which hold together members of the same community.
This is from a careful study by Mr. Warne, which doubtless many of you know, called "The Slav Invasion."
It was during a remarkable struggle on the part of this amalgamation of men from all countries that the United States government, in spite of itself, was driven to take a hand in an industrial situation, owing to the long strain and the intolerable suffering entailed upon the whole country; but even then public opinion was too aroused, too moralized, to be patient with an investigation of the mere commercial questions of tonnage and freight rates with their political implications, and insisted that the national commission should consider the human aspects of the case. Columns of newspapers and days of investigation were given to the discussion of the deeds of violence, having nothing to do with the original demands of the strikers, and entering only into the value set upon human life by each of the contesting parties. Did the union encourage violence against non-union men, or did it really do everything to suppress it, living up to its creed which was to maintain a standard of living that families might be properly housed and fed and protected from debilitating toil and disease, that children might be nurtured into American citizenship? Did the operators protect their men as far as possible from mine damp, from the length of hours proven by experience to be exhausting? Did they pay a sufficient wage to the mine laborer to allow him to send his children to school? Questions such as these, a study of the human problem, invaded the commission day after day during its sitting. One felt for the moment the first wave of a rising tide of humanitarianism, until the normal ideals of the laborer to secure food and shelter for his family, a security for his old age, and a larger opportunity for his children, became the ideals of democratic government.
It may be owing to the fact that the workingman is brought in direct contact with the situation as a desperate problem of living wage or starvation; it may be that wisdom is at her old trick of residing in the hearts of the simple, or that this new idealism, which is that of a reasonable life and labor, must from the very nature of things proceed from those who labor; or possibly because amelioration arises whence it is so sorely needed; but certainly it is true that, while the rest of the country talks of assimilation as if we were a huge digestive apparatus, the man with whom the immigrant has come most sharply into competition has been forced into fraternal relations with him.
All the peoples of the world have become part of our tribunal, and their sense of pity, their clamor for personal kindness, their insistence upon the right to join in our progress, cannot be disregarded. The burdens and sorrows of men have unexpectedly become intelligent and urgent [page 11] to this nation, and it is only by accepting them with some magnanimity that we can develop the larger sense of justice which is becoming worldwide and is lying in ambush, as it were, to manifest itself in governmental relations. Men of all nations are determining upon the abolition of degrading poverty, disease, and intellectual weakness, with their resulting industrial inefficiency. This manifests itself in labor legislation in England, in the Imperial Sick and Old-Age Insurance Acts of Germany, in the enormous system of public education in the United States.
To be afraid of it is to lose what we have, a government has always received feeble support from its constituents as soon as its demands appeared childish or remote. Citizens inevitably neglect or abandon civic duty when it no longer embodies their genuine desires. It is useless to hypnotize ourselves by unreal talk of colonial ideals and patriotic duty toward immigrants as if it were a question of passing a set of resolutions. The nation must be saved by its lovers, by the patriots who possess adequate and contemporaneous knowledge. A commingling of racial habits and national characteristics in the end must rest upon the voluntary balance and concord of many forces.
We may with justice demand from the scholar the philosophic statement, the reconstruction and reorganization of the knowledge which he possesses, only if we agree to make it over into healthy and direct expressions of free living.